State Court Holds that Incompetence May Act to Toll a Statute of Limitations

Earlier this month, the West Virginia Supreme Court issued an opinion in a case requiring the court to decide whether a person’s mental incompetence can toll a statute of limitations. In other words, the question was whether a person’s inability to understand that they may have a viable case can actually excuse that person from filing a timely lawsuit. The court ultimately held that in some situations, including the one in front of it, a person’s incompetence may toll the statute of limitations.

HourglassThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the estate of a man who passed away while in the defendant nursing home’s care. According to the court’s opinion, the man resided at the defendant nursing home for 10 years. However, during the last several years, according to the man’s estate, the facility treated him poorly, ultimately leading to his early death.

The man’s estate filed the lawsuit approximately two years after the man died. At pre-trial hearings, the defendant attempted to limit the evidence that the plaintiff was permitted to submit to the court, arguing that some of the evidence was from before the allowable time period, according to the statute. The statute was a two-year statute.

All parties agreed that the deceased was mentally incompetent during all relevant periods. Additionally, the parties agreed that the case was filed too late, according to the statute of limitations. What was at issue was whether the statute of limitation should have been tolled because the man’s mental state prevented him from understanding that he may have had a viable case while he was still alive.

The court ultimately determined that the statute of limitations should be tolled. However, in doing so, the court distinguished a similar case in which it found that the statute was not tolled. The main difference between the two cases was that in this case the elderly man did not have legal counsel, while in the previous case the man did. This, the court noted, is a critical difference because under the “discovery rule,” the statute only begins to run after the injury is discovered. Since the man’s mental state prevented him from “discovering” that he had a case, the statute should be tolled.

Have You Been the Victim of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?

If you have a loved one in a Maryland nursing home, and you believe that they have been mistreated, either through abuse or neglect, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled attorneys at the Maryland and Washington, D.C. law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have ample experience defending and enforcing the rights of nursing home residents. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation with a dedicated attorney to discuss your case. You may be entitled to compensation for the loss of your loved one, or any injuries they sustained. Calling is free and will not result in any liability on your part unless we are able to help you obtain compensation.

More Blog Posts:

Appellate Court Reverses Lower Court’s Dismissal of Plaintiff’s Elder Abuse Case, Allowing the Case to Move Forward, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published April 21, 2016.

Nursing Home Resident Dies After Being Left Outside in the Sun, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published May 13, 2016.

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